Vols get pep talk by King

KNOXVILLE -- The cigarette marks on Bernard King's body healed many years ago.

The burn still sears in his mind, though.

King, a Tennessee and NBA legend who tormented Kentucky as much as any player in history, spoke to the Volunteers after practice Thursday night and plans to be with them Saturday night in Rupp Arena.

"We don't lose to Kentucky," King told the Vols. "You hear me? We're not losing to Kentucky. I'm going to be there with you, and we're going to get it done."

King, a 6-foot-7 forward, lost only once to the Wildcats. Kentucky fans pelted him with oranges as he left the floor in Lexington as a freshman, and at least one hit him with a lit cigarette.

He vowed to coaches, teammates and media that night in the locker room that the Vols would not lose again to the Wildcats during his career. And they didn't. They won five consecutive games before King declared for the NBA draft after his junior season.

"Bernard is amazing," UT coach Bruce Pearl said after practice. "He has come to the rescue many, many times. He's been around, obviously, a great deal the past couple of years. Fortunately, he's got a very successful business, and he's here in this region on business. He always stops by. He reminded our guys just how special this rivalry is."

King's presence has been much more visible since Pearl came to Knoxville. The UT legend has attended several practices and games the past few years.

"He is not a fair-weather guy," Pearl said. "Bernard will probably text me more after losses than after wins with some positive reinforcement and things along those lines."

UT's biggest problem Thursday was that standout senior forward Wayne Chism had to watch practice from the bench. Chism, who has been bothered by a knee injury the past few weeks, now also is slowed by a bum ankle. He walked around campus in a boot the past two days for precautionary reasons, and he probably won't practice today, but he's expected to play Saturday night.

"Wayne hurt his ankle at Vanderbilt, and we did not know it until we got back," Pearl said. "He felt it a little bit, but because he had the tape on so tight, he didn't really experience any pain or swelling until after the game.

"He took his shoe off, and the thing just blew up on him."

Chism, who averages nearly a double-double in SEC play, is a major factor in every game. But his role will be especially crucial Saturday against Kentucky's stout frontcourt duo of freshman DeMarcus Cousins and junior Patrick Patterson.

Patterson and Cousins have helped Kentucky become one of the nation's top rebounding teams.

"Cousins is as physically imposing a center as I think this league has seen as a freshman in a long time," Pearl said. "I don't know that there is a more physically talented, imposing guy out there. I don't know what the numbers say, but he's done a terrific job.

"They've got a terrific one-two punch in the (post), no question about it."

Chism joked around with teammates from the bench when he wasn't getting treatment, and he walked around the practice floor without a significant limp -- unlike UT sophomore guard Cameron Tatum, whose sprained ankle still is badly swollen.

"Obviously, Wayne is our best player, and we all know that," Vols freshman guard Skylar McBee said. "He's a tough guy, and we all know that, too, and he says he's going to be good to go, so he'll be good to go."

Sophomore guard Scotty Hopson said it would take "a lot" to prevent Chism from competing in Rupp as a senior.

"Wayne will come back on game day and get it loosened out and get the bumps and cricks back out," Hopson said. "Come game day, I know Wayne will be fine. He'll be ready. I know Wayne and his mentality for this season, and he wants this to be a great season. He wants it to be a great season for all of us, so I think his focus will be there, and he'll be ready play basketball.

"His presence on the inside and all our guards rebounding down will be a big factor in this game. I think if we stay efficient in our game plan and rebound well, we'll win this game."

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